A Four Century Copyright: The Bible That Can’t Be copied

The purpose of a copyright is to protect one’s property and prevent the making of unwarranted copies. One would assume that Bibles don’t fall into that category but are in public domain. If you live in the UK, you’d be wrong. It turns out that the King James Bible (1611) is under Crown Copyright, which means that if you’re a British author, you actually need permission to quote the text in commercial publications. That's because the King James Bible isn’t conventionally copyrighted. The work actually predates the concept of copyright by nearly a century (copyright started with the Statute of Anne in 1710). What you’re actually seeing is a unique and thoroughly antiquated publishing monopoly that functions as a copyright by other means. Under the Copyright Act of 1775, the perpetual copyright expires on January 1, 2039. Of course, if you live outside the UK, the King James Bible is public domain and you can quote it or print it whenever you like. If you happen to live in the UK and you’re not the Queen’s Printer (Cambridge University Press), hands off.